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Blue Lakes in the Mount Sneffels Wilderness

Saturday & Sunday, August 2-3, 2014

This weekend Diane and I spent a nice relaxing overnight backpacking trip at the Blue Lakes in the Mount Sneffels Wilderness. I have wanted to hike up to the Blue Lakes for many years and am glad I was finally able to get up that way. The scenery was beautiful and the weather was nice all weekend, too. While it looked like we might receive some of the typical afternoon storms on Saturday, they managed to miss us and we never saw a drop of rain all weekend. There seemed to be quite a few bugs out this time of the year, especially near the large patches of wildflowers we came across, but we managed to keep the mosquitoes away with some DEET bug spray that seemed to work well. While there were a bunch of people camped on the northwest side of the lower lake when we arrived, we crossed the outlet creek and found a nice campsite on the northeast side where no one was camped. Only one other person ended up setting up camp on this side of the lake, so it was nice and quiet.

We left home early Saturday morning and drove straight to the Blue Lakes Trailhead along East Dallas Creek. We put on our packs and started the 3.3 mile hike to the lower Blue Lake.

Blue Lakes Trailhead by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

A lot of green along the trail.

Green Trail by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

Entering the Mount Sneffels Wilderness.

Mount Sneffels Wilderness by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

Climbing higher up the trail.

Up the Trail by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

As we climbed higher we came across a few nice patches of wildflowers along the trail.

Patch of Flowers by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

Diane among the wildflowers on our way up.

Coming Up the Trail by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

Looking back down the East Fork of Dallas Creek towards the Uncompahgre River Valley.

Boulders by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

After finding a nice campsite next to a large field of wildflowers at the edge of the trees we setup camp and rested for a little bit before hiking up to the middle and upper Blue Lakes under Mount Sneffels.

Wildflower Camp by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

Reflection on the blue waters of the lower Blue Lake.

Reflecting by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

Crossing the creek as we climb above the lower Blue Lake.

Falling Water by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

Diane above the lower Blue Lake as we hiked up to the middle and upper lakes.

Above Blue Lake by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

The trail above the middle Blue Lake.

Middle Blue Trail by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

View of the upper lake.

Upper Lake by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

Looking down the outlet from the upper Blue Lake.

Upper Outlet by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

I climbed to the top of a ridge for a nice view over the middle Blue Lake with Wolcott Mountain in the background.

Middle Blue Lake by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

After taking a few photos of the middle lake, I returned to the upper lake to find Diane sitting on a rock waiting for me.

Upper Blue Lake by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

Wildflowers along the trail.

Paintbrush by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

Garden by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

Looking down on the amazing blue water of the lower lake.

Blue by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

When we returned to the lower Blue Lake, Diane took a little nap while I hiked around the lake, taking a few photos along the way.

Spotlight by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

The bright blue water and reflections were just amazing!

Blue Reflection by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

If you look closely at the other side of the lake in this photo you can see our blue tent just in the trees.

Rocky Side by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

Far Side by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

Wildflowers along the creek.

Flower Cascade by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

We had dinner on this rock by the lower lake and relaxed for a while.

Relaxing by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

Lily by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

Shortly before sunset I climbed back up above the lower lake for a few photos.

Blue Below by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

What an amazing color!

Lower Blue Lake by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

More wildflowers along the trail.

Along the Trail by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

I didn’t stay above the lake for long and ended up back along it’s shore to catch the sunset.

Outlet by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

Sun-Tipped by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

Once the sun was down I took a few shots in the twilight from a large patch of wildflowers near our campsite. It’s a good thing there was no wind, or I probably wouldn’t have been able to get these shots.

Evening Behind Camp by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

Flowers Everywhere by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

This photo was taken during the brief period of time where everything was lit up by the subtle alpenglow.

Blue Lake Alpenglow by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

While there had been a lot of people on the trail and around the lower lake in the afternoon and evening, most of them were day-hikers and had left well before sunset. We went to bed shortly after the sun had gone down and I was done taking photos for the evening. I fell asleep quickly and slept well all through the night.

On Sunday morning the alarm on my phone woke us up shortly before sunrise and we strolled over to the lake to watch the sunrise. The sky was pretty clear at first, but some clouds moved in a little later and made for a beautiful setting with the abundant wildflowers along the shore.

The first light of the day strikes Wolcott Mountain with clear skies above.

Early Light by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

Morning Lake by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

Some nice clouds move into the sky.

New Clouds by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

Blue Lake Morning by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

Columbines along the shore of the Lower Blue Lake.

Columbine Morning by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

There were plenty of other wildflowers, too.

Morning Flowers by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

Nice reflections of the calm water.

Wolcott Mountain Reflection by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

Wolcott Morning by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

When the sun was up we had a little breakfast and then took down our camp and repacked our backpacks. We left early and hiked back down to the trailhead, which was much easier and quicker than the hike up. We were back in Ridgway in time for an early lunch before driving back home. It was a very nice and relaxing weekend in the San Juan Mountains.

>> Blue Lakes Photo Gallery


  1. Doug Schumacher
    Doug Schumacher August 7, 2014

    I have been following your sites for a long time, and just want to say it is such a inspiration to see your photography, and the places that you venture into all of the time. I truly believe you are one of the best landscape photographers out there, you truly capture the essence of the moment, along with the perfect lighting. I also envy all of the trips that you are able to take, keep hiking and taking incredible photos.

    • Randy Langstraat
      Randy Langstraat August 7, 2014

      Thank you for the kind words, Doug. I really appreciate it!

  2. Matthew
    Matthew August 8, 2014

    Beautiful photos. What setup do you use for hiking with your camera + lenses?

    • Randy Langstraat
      Randy Langstraat August 8, 2014

      Thank you Matthew. I have tried different solutions over the years for hiking with my camera, but I always seem to end up back at the same place. I take a lot of photos while hiking and need to have quick access to my camera at all times. I don’t want to have to dig out out of a bag when I need it, so I carry it on a sling over my shoulder/neck so that it rests towards my side. This way I can just pick it up and shoot. Yes, the camera does get banged up sometimes when I am scrambling over rocks, but that’s a risk I’m willing to take for access to my camera. I usually carry an extra lens in a pouch in my backpack. If I bring my tripod along, it just goes in one of the side pouches of my backpack. If it rains I usually have room in my pack for my camera and I carry a dry bag that will fit my camera.

      If I’m not on a multi-day backpack trip or a very long hike, I will carry addition lenses and camera gear in my f-Stop Gear Tilopa BC backpack, but will still keep my camera out and around my neck for the hike.

      Hope this info helps 🙂

      • Matthew
        Matthew August 8, 2014

        Great info, Randy. I’m on board with needing quick access to my camera while on the trail. I’d like to keep a 70-200 lens on the body for immediate shots of wildlife. Then store the 24-70 in my pack for taking landscapes during breaks. I’m considering either the Lowepro Toploader OR ThinkTank Digital Holster. Now I have to decide if I want to sling it or attach the the d-rings on my shoulder straps to keep it in front. Cheers!

  3. Jeannie
    Jeannie April 4, 2017

    Thank you for sharing these beautiful photos. We are doing the Blue Lakes hike this August and are so excited! Your photography skills are amazing.

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